NCAA Football

Oregon vs. Ohio State 2015: Biggest Stars from College Football Championship

Thanks to the first-ever College Football Playoff, Ohio State had a chance to claim the national title. Even on the biggest stage in every player's career, the No. 4 Buckeyes stepped up for a 42-20 win over No. 2 Oregon.

Ohio State came out with authority all game long and thoroughly dismantled Oregon in Arlington, Texas. Despite four turnovers by the offense, the defense held the Ducks in check as Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott powered the Buckeyes to a decisive win.

Even in a loss, Marcus Mariota was still a steady performer for the Ducks. Ohio State essentially shut down the running game with neither Royce Freeman nor Thomas Tyner able to get going. The Ducks were worn down by the end of the night, but Mariota's season was still one of the best in the history of the sport.

Ohio State's official Twitter account provides a look at the final score from AT&T Stadium:

Just when it seemed like the best games were behind Elliott, he shined brightest on the national stage.

The sophomore running back went off for 450 yards and four touchdowns between the Big Ten title game and Sugar Bowl. He then set a national championship record with 246 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

ESPN Stats & Info provides background while ESPN passes along footage of one of his most impressive runs:

Elliott wasn't the only OSU player running wild against Oregon. Jones, who was starting in only his third game, didn't look anything remotely like a third-string quarterback. Finishing 16-of-23 with 242 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, two total touchdowns and one interception, Jones was a steady force.

One of the biggest ways Jones made a difference was his bruising style of running and elusiveness outside of the pocket. Will Brinson of CBS Sports gives a look at the most memorable run for Jones late in the game:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports also offered his take on Jones' play:

On the other side, Mariota struggled at times without some of his best receivers against the Buckeyes. Still, he was able to come away with two touchdown strikes, with one going for 70 yards to Byron Marshall.

The biggest issue for Mariota and the offense was converting on third downs, finishing 2-of-12 in that category. All of the pressure was put on the Heisman winner's shoulders, and he didn't quite look as unflappable as he was throughout this season.

Even with the less-than-stellar performance, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Mariota has a bright future ahead:

One game doesn't make an entire career, but it can redefine it. For Elliott and Jones, Monday night left no question that they are two of the best players in college football. For Mariota, the huge stage left question marks aplenty, but ones that will be answered in the months to come.


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National Signing Day 2015: Predictions for Top Recruits After CFP Championship

Thanks to the Ohio State Buckeyes' 42-20 win in the national championship over the Oregon Ducks on Monday, Jim Harbaugh's arrival at Michigan and the Big Ten's performance in the postseason on the whole, the conference is likely to see a boon in recruiting.

Suddenly the Big Ten is beginning to look cool again. It may take a year or so for that to fully resonate with prospects.

The SEC didn't have a presence in the College Football Playoff championship game, but that probably won't stop one underachieving team from the conference from signing three of the top five prospects in the nation. 

The Florida Gators fired Will Muschamp with two games remaining in the season, but the fruits of his recruiting labor could be enjoyed after he's gone. The Muschamp regime might have delivered new head coach Jim McElwain the best the state has to offer in the way of high school prospects.

We won't know for sure until Feb. 5, which is national signing day, but here's a short list of the players I predict the Gators will ink.


Florida Bound?

Martez Ivey, OL 

The 6'5.5" 275-pounder is considered the No. 1 prospect in the nation, per 24/7 Sports. Ivey hails from Apopka, Florida, where he attends Apopka High School. He's a lean, powerful and agile tackle who is able to lock on and dominate defenders.

Take a look at his highlight reel via

Obviously, highlight videos only show the positives, but there's no questioning his athleticism. If the Gators can secure his commitment to the program, he could be a standout for three or four years in Gainesville.


Byron Cowart, DE

Florida isn't just close to shoring up its players in the trenches on offense. Cowart is one of two top-tier defensive linemen the Gators are favorites to sign.

Were it not for massive defensive tackle prospect and Georgia Bulldogs commit Trent Thompson, Cowart would be the top-rated defensive lineman in the nation, per 247Sports.

At 6'4" 250 pounds, the Armwood High School standout from Seffner, Florida, is already the size of some defensive ends in the NFL. By the time he leaves college, he'll be even more of a monster than he already is.

His burst off the edge, nose for the ball and ability to hold his ground against the run are impressive. He also plays with a nastiness that the Gators defense desperately needs. You can see his ridiculous power in this tweet from Rival Camp Series. 


CeCe Jefferson, DE

Jefferson hasn't even had his official visit with the Gators, but the young man from Baker County Senior High School in Glen Saint Mary, Florida, has strength and size to play right away.

The Gators still have some stiff competition from Ole Miss and Alabama for Jefferson's services.

If the Gators can sign Jefferson and Cowart, the future of the program's defensive line is looking as bright as the Florida sun.


Outside of Florida

Iman Marshall, CB

The 6'1" 190-pound Marshall is considered the best player from the West Coast, and I believe he'll sign with USC. Coming from Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, California, the alma mater of Washington's DeSean Jackson and several other current and former NFL players, Marshall has been part of a nearly unequaled prep experience.

Marshall has ideal size to defend some of the big receivers he might encounter in the Pac-12, and potentially in the NFL.

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Oregon vs. Ohio State: Top Performers from College Football Championship 2015

Some may suggest that history will show Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy winner, was bested at the hands of a third-string quarterback in Oregon's dreadful showing in a 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.

In reality, Mariota fell victim to a long-awaited powerhouse of an offense years in the making by Urban Meyer, whose Buckeyes out of the Big Ten are suddenly not all that boring to watch.

When it comes to top performers, the expected rang true. Mariota played well, but his defense could not account for an Ohio State one-two punch that is just getting started in its reign of terror over the collegiate landscape.

Again, expected, just not to the result most figured.


Highlighting Top Performers

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

This was simple to see coming.

Sophomore Ohio State back Ezekiel Elliott entered Monday night the owner of 450 rushing yards and four scores over the course of his prior two outings, one being the Big Ten Championship Game, the other the CFP semifinal.

For a while, it seemed as if Elliott wanted to reach that milestone in Monday night's four frames. In fact, Elliott's 246 yards on 36 carries with four scores helped him to move further up an eye-popping list of names, as illustrated by ESPN CollegeFootball:

Of course, the gaudy statistics and sheer superb performance earned Elliott a piece of individual hardware:

He can always shoot for the Heisman next season.

Elliott's bruising gashes between the tackles and elusiveness in the open field helped Ohio State to a victory just as much as Cardale Jones' play did, but the scary part is the future.

Now a champion and underrated no longer, try to keep in mind that Elliott received no more than 12 carries in four games this season, three of which came in a row to start the season.

Like his quarterback, Elliott is just getting started. 


Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota did all that he could Monday.

His 24-of-37 mark for 333 yards and two scores with no turnovers until a meaningless last-second interception speaks well enough to that. Untimely drops, lapses along the offensive line and simple struggles in the face of a strong defense cost his offense the game, though.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put it best early on in the contest:

That trend never really ceased Monday, which is what eventually happens to an offense without three of its top five receivers due to various factors.

Mariota is now on his way to the pro game. While not an ideal finish to his collegiate career, it was another typically strong performance from the Heisman winner.

This time, he needed a little help and downright did not get it.


Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon

Much credit goes to Ducks wideout Byron Marshall.

The Ohio State defense had little else to worry about in terms of Oregon receiving threats and the onus of production fell directly on the San Jose, California native's shoulders.

He delivered, too, despite the fact Devon Allen and Pharaoh Brown were out of the lineup, as was CFP semifinal hero Darren Carrington—the former two due to injury, the latter due to suspension, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

Granted, things could have gone a little more smoothly for Marshall on his way to the eight catches for 169 yards and a score:

Alas, Marshall stepped up big on a night many of his teammates did not.


Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

Pegged beforehand by many as the weakness that might doom the Buckeyes, Jones put on the best effort of his three-game stint as the starter Monday.

A 16-of-23 mark for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception does not pop off the page. Neither does 21 carries for 38 yards and a score.

But Jones' value Monday was his fortitude to never rattle, his gutsy ability to use his 6'5", 250-pound frame to bully defenders, which in turn allowed him to pick up critical chain-moving gains that made all the difference in how many opportunities the Oregon offense even had on the field.

As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Jones set a bit of history in the process:

It is impossible to know what the direct future holds for Jones.

Jones' three-game outburst, capped off by a performance that brought a national title to Ohio State, could launch him to the 2015 NFL draft, or see him stay with the program and compete with one of, if not both J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

Regardless, Jones may have just completed the best three-game stretch by a quarterback in Ohio State history, if not in college football history.


Statistics and info courtesy of unless otherwise specified

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Missouri AD Mike Alden Ranks in Top 10 in Fundraising Nationally

College athletics is at a unique crossroad in its financial existence as the powerful industry has had to adapt to more changing factors than ever, headlined by an evolving economy.

But in Columbia, Missouri, the model has been established. It's easy to see why Missouri sports across the board enjoy an above-average level of success, and it begins at the top with its director of athletics, Mike Alden. has compiled a list of the top 10 fundraising athletic directors at the college level, of which Alden is a heralded participant. It's pointed out that a strong percentage of Missouri's yearly operating budget comes from donors of its Tiger Scholarship Program, highlighting a strong relationship and belief that Mizzou alumni trust strongly in Alden and the job he's doing.

The Tiger Scholarship Program is one of the premier fundraising vehicles in the nation. The group is the financial support arm of Missouri athletics and actually takes no state or taxpayer support. It is funded solely from private donations and the generosity of investors.

Also of note, two other members of this top 10 list come from Mike Alden origins. They are Brian Wickstrom of the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Ross Bjork of Ole Miss. Their presence is important as understudies of Alden, a further testament to his professional ability. Indeed, being "Mizzou Made" extends to the world of athletic administration as well.



Alden took over for Missouri in 1998 and was immediately challenged in his role when Norm Stewart retired as men's basketball coach in 1999. Two years later, current football coach Gary Pinkel was brought in by Alden to aide a football program that had seen two winning seasons it its last 18 years.

Facilities for football at Mizzou when Alden arrived on campus were not among the best in the country. A basic and confined press area highlighted the horizon of Memorial Stadium, and outdoor practice was taking place in the rain if weather dictated.

That was then, and this is now. To see the progress across the board has been nothing short of impressive. Missouri's athletics have had to confront bold challenges, but it's the product of tough decision-making that has allowed them to adapt and succeed.



"It could be almost the 'Show-Me State' mentality," Alden said of fans and the community coming to embrace facility upgrades. "I think it's taken time for us to be able to communicate our vision and be able to educate our constitutes that these investments are going to pay dividends, and certainly I think they've seen those dividends being received."

Those dividends have shot up in a short period of time. In its last season in the Big 12, Missouri was set to make $12.41 million in money from the conference. That money was forfeited as a part of its exit agreement with the league. But in 2013-14, Missouri pulled in $20.9 million from the SEC, a number that has allowed it to sell the prospect of donation to an alumni base who was uncertain with all the initial SEC changes.


Tough Decisions

In April of 2012, Alden made one of the boldest moves anyone has ever made associated with athletics at Mizzou. He unveiled a new Nike branding identity model that was to be used across the board with all sports to help associate anything the student-athletes were doing with the school and vice versa. What this initially meant to fans and alumni was replacing the block style "M" on the helmets with the new logo, which was a tough pill for many traditionalists to swallow.

However, a prevailing feeling is taking root that what is going on with football—and really everything from volleyball to wrestling at Mizzou—has come with change. Change never goes seeking anyone out; Mike Alden and his staff have been proactive and making change part of what they have to do, and it's working.

But business isn't about relishing in the limelight for too long. It's never really about "what have you done for me," but more about "what have you done for me lately?" For Alden, the prospects of the future and moving forward have a lot of excitement associated with it.

"I think that the strength of our advertising brand has never ever been stronger at Mizzou than it is right now," said Alden. "As you go into 2015, to me, that in itself gives you probably the biggest sense of pride because you know that that brand awareness is based on academic integrity, it's based on social responsibility and doing things the right way, it's built on competitive success, and it's based on the fact you're the flagship institution for an entire state."

In this case, the brand is succeeding because of its awareness, orchestrated by Alden. He has proven he can bring winners into key positions and make his brand a much more attractive item all around, which is a plus for everyone professionally, as well as the people of the state of Missouri.


All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Dan Irwin on Twitter @irwinsports or on Facebook.

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College Football Championship 2015: Top Breakout Stars from Oregon vs. OSU

In one of the most shocking outcomes in recent history, the Ohio State Buckeyes stunned the Oregon Ducks and won the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, 42-20.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer became only the second coach in college football history to win a national title with two different schools, but it is the fact that he returned the program to prominence that should have Buckeyes fans most excited.

After the lopsided national championship outcome, here are the top breakout stars from the battle between Oregon and Ohio State.


Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes

The breakout star from the Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday was sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, who showcased to the nation why he is one of the brightest stars in the sport heading into 2015.

After racking up six 100-plus-yard rushing performances during the regular season, Elliott managed to amass 220 yards in the conference championship, 230 yards in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and a whopping 246 yards in the national championship.

Oregon struggled to stop Elliott all night, and over the course of the game, he was a key part of Ohio State’s ability to wear down the Ducks defenders. Feeding Elliott 36 carries in the championship hurt Oregon’s defense, but it was the running back’s four total touchdowns that did the most damage.

With big-game experience under his belt and a unique chance to return to Ohio State and repeat as national champions, Elliott’s success with the Buckeyes will only continue to grow over the offseason and into the 2015 campaign.


Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon Ducks

A loss for the Oregon Ducks was a devastating blow to the program, but that doesn’t discredit the effort of the team all year and the performance of wide receiver Byron Marshall in Monday’s national championship.

Marshall’s best game of the season came in the opening week where he racked up eight receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, but he matched that output against Ohio State, amassing eight catches for 169 yards and one touchdown.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota leaned on Marshall all day, but it still wasn’t enough for Oregon to overcome the Ohio State defensive assault. While the team’s performance didn’t live up to expectations, Marshall’s composure in a key moment is a silver lining to the loss.

Without Mariota next season, though, how the Ducks offense plays in 2015 will be a major question mark.


*Stats via

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College Football Rankings: Early Look at 2015 Preseason Top 25

By the time the clock hit zero at the national championship game, all but one school had turned its attention toward next season.

With a 42-20 win over Oregon, Ohio State has proved itself as the best team in college football for the 2014 season. Aside from those residing in Big 12 territory, there is very little debate over this year's champion.

However, there will be many more questions going forward about which teams will be the best in 2015. Plenty of big stars across the nation are either graduating or moving on to the NFL, greatly impacting how things will look next season.

Obviously, a lot can change before August, from players leaving schools to recruiting battles and more. Still, here are early projections for the preseason Top 25 for next fall.


Top Teams


There are plenty of reasons to doubt Alabama going into next year. The Crimson Tide lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl as part of a disappointing bowl season for the SEC West. Top playmakers Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins have all decided to enter the NFL draft.

There will also be a change at quarterback after Blake Sims' year under center.

While a team like Oregon will see some drop-off after losing stars, Alabama should once again be a top contender for a national championship no matter who stays or goes.

Over the past five seasons, Nick Saban's team has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in every preseason poll. This is not an accident or giving Alabama too much respect; it's a realistic goal based on the fact that this team reloads every offseason.

Jacob Coker appears set to take over the starting quarterback role, or one of a number of highly recruited players will challenge him. Derrick Henry will become the next star running back to carry the offense. Alabama also currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports, which would match the rank for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

There will be plenty of inexperience, but the talent will still be there to go with arguably the best coach in college football. Challenging for another national title is a good possibility for this program.



After dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final rankings and missing out on the College Football Playoff, TCU has every right to be disappointed. Keeping mentally strong after a devastating moment is difficult.

However, head coach Gary Patterson knew the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss could be a stepping stone for next season, via Heather Dinich of

Like I said before we played Ole Miss, why was that game important? Because it could be a jump-start to this season. It’s part of your resume. As far as I’m concerned, that bowl game was part of this football team’s resume for next year. Everybody says you have to build a resume. To me, that’s what that game was.

With a 42-3 win over a team that had the lowest scoring defense in the nation, the Horned Frogs sent a serious message to the rest of the nation. You can overlook them if you want, but they are for real.

TCU will once again be led by Trevone Boykin, who still has plenty of room to improve at quarterback after switching positions from earlier in his career. Considering the Dallas native passed for 3,901 yards, rushed for 707 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns for one of the top offenses in the nation, that's a scary thought.

Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman explained why that unit could be even better in 2015:

TCU can go from odd man out to title favorite over the course of next season.


Ohio State

Urban Meyer's team fought through adversity all season, as the squad dealt with injuries to star quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett before Cardale Jones took over down the stretch.

Considering all three players performed admirably under center, there remains a mystery as to who will be the man next season. As former Buckeyes star Troy Smith noted before the national championship, though, that is not necessarily a problem:

No matter who gets the starting job next season, the team will be confident it can continue its recent string of success.

Of course, you could probably put almost anyone at quarterback, and this group would still be one of the best in the nation in 2015.

Jason McIntyre of Yahoo Sports recently examined all of the talented youngsters who will be returning next season:

Ezekiel Elliott has proved in the postseason he is one of the top running backs in the nation, while Joey Bosa has the skills to be a Heisman Trophy candidate on the defensive side of the football.  

While most teams will be losing impact players to the NFL draft, Ohio State's stars will be returning and getting better. After surprising almost everyone with a national title, this team should be ready to repeat in 2015. 


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